Krysten Ritter on why ‘Marvel’s Jessica Jones’ is ‘like nothing on television’

20 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

How Netflix’s ‘Jessica Jones’ soars beyond mere superhero show.

If they didn’t both hail from the same mothership, I’d say “Jessica Jones,” the Netflix neo-noir about a superpowered private eye with a tragic past, is a direct rebuke to the casual devastation wrought on midtown Manhattan by the gaily costumed figures in “The Avengers,” full of spectacle, devoid of emotion. “Jessica Jones,” the new series about a private eye (Krysten Ritter) who has given up on superheroics, arrives on Netflix today as the most fully realized and human-feeling of the Marvel television shows to make it to the small screen.Anti-spoiler warning: For the most part, I’m going to write assuming that you haven’t read the Alias comic books that serve as the source material for the show because there appears to be a good amount of overlap.When EW visited the Brooklyn set of Marvel’s Jessica Jones, star Krysten Ritter was just a few days away from wrapping on the 13-episode season — now available to stream on Netflix — and she was admittedly tired.

Based on a relatively new addition to the Marvel pantheon, “Jessica Jones” is the second of five planned Netflix series about purposefully realistic superheroes — street-level crimefighters with complex motivations instead of trailer-ready quips. Unlike “Daredevil,” it leavens its grimness with humor and one of the more plausible, grown-up romantic relationships in the whole franchise, between Jessica and bartender Luke Cage (“The Good Wife” veteran Mike Colter). “Jessica Jones” has dandy action choreography and a fluid sense of how its characters’ powers would function up against human antagonists. Throughout its first seven episodes, it’s a white-knuckle, oft-witty crime noir peppered with bed-breaking sex scenes and incredibly haunting sequences.

First came the very good “Daredevil,” with its eye-popping action sequences featuring Matt Murdock, the blind lawyer with heightened senses who comes into his own when he takes on a corrupt businessman with tentacles in seemingly every criminal enterprise in the city. Jessica first spies Luke through her long-range zoom lens and after a chance meeting, sparks fly — a connection that intensifies once the two realize they both have special abilities. “He’s a man of mystery,” Colter tells The Post. “Jessica doesn’t know a lot about him [and] he’s not giving her a lot of information because he has a past that he’s trying to hide. While Kilgrave sexually abuses only some of his victims, his ability to take away their free will lets “Jessica Jones” stage interesting conversations about consent, who can lose it and what it means to have been deprived of your agency.

KRYSTEN RITTER: Marvel is obviously a giant, global super-brand, so being a part of that is exciting because of the huge built-in audience and the appetite for it. He abuses his power of mind control to get whatever he wants: good wine, good food, fancy clothes, money, sex, distraction, total obedience, Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter). With superhuman strength and the ability to leap tall buildings in, if not a single bound, certainly two or three, she tried the superhero route once. In the real world, those discussions have become deeply entangled in larger debates about the politics of college campuses and sexual assault law. “Jessica Jones” may not be able to break those deadlocks. Each is slightly outside the traditional superhero norm—downtrodden detective stories, blaxploitation tales, psychological horror, fun-filled supernatural romps—but they’re all worth a gander.

They have mutual acquaintances but they don’t find that out until later in the storyline.” In the Marvel comic books Jessica and Luke eventually have a daughter together, but Colter can only acknowledge that in the series “there is a working relationship and there is romance” — and that the two characters are undeniably drawn to each other. “Because they’re two broken souls, in a sense, [there are] holes to be filled emotionally and physically,” he says. “They’re very opposite but there’s something about them that really does connect on a real base level … That relationship, where it goes, is something we’ll have to wait and see.” Jessica, for her part, is haunted by the demons of her past and desperate to destroy her nemesis, the mind-controlling Kilgrave (David Tennant from “Doctor Who” and “Gracepoint”). Along the way she also seeks help from manipulative lawyer Jeri Hogarth (Carrie-Anne Moss, “The Matrix”) — who only aids Jessica when she can get something in return — and her best friend/famous radio host; Trish Walker (Rachael Taylor, “666 Park Avenue”). Kilgrave’s victims can be anyone: young, attractive women he wants to sleep with; a musician whose talent he covets; a decent policeman, Will Simpson (Wil Traval), whom Kilgrave wants to exploit to gain access to his victims; a marginal older man he tortured for the fun of it; and in one horrifying instance when he wants to upset Jessica deeply, a child. Nope, much like the comic book from writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Michael Gaydos that it’s based on, Jessica Jones leans hard on the noir imagery, leaving the superheroics to color the background.

Like Netflix’s first Marvel series “Daredevil,” “Jessica Jones” is grounded in realism — these heroes don’t run around in capes or show off flashy superpowers. As Jessica, the striking Krysten Ritter, with her jet black hair, alabaster skin and knife-edge nose, talks tough (and punches hard), but she is not a weapon so much as a walking wound. We come to discover that Jones’ brief superhero career ended when she fell helplessly under the sway of a man named Kilgrave (David Tennant), powerfully and maliciously gifted with mind control. Not that we don’t have any, but we don’t rely on that to tell the story,” Colter says. “These characters happen to have powers, but it’s really more about their emotions, their day-to-day lives, as opposed to who they’re actually going after and fighting.”

She thought she had vanquished him the year before; she learns in the first episode, via another victim, that he has returned, still singularly obsessed with Jessica Jones Kilgrave is slow to reveal himself (both to us and to Jessica) but he is insidious, always in the back of her mind, and the fact that he can weaponize anyone means he can be anywhere, which keeps the tension at a rolling boil. When Kilgrave’s targets meet in a tentative support group, Jessica is the only one of them who wants to take action to try to stop Kilgrave; the rest of them would do anything it takes to stay off his radar for the rest of their lives.

Instead, we learn the extent of her “powers” in glimpses, as when she leaps two stories to grab onto a fire escape or tosses a hulking bar-dweller across the room with one hand. He can approach a man on a subway platform wearing a Zegna coat and say to him, “You want to give me your jacket,” and the man will hand over his jacket. In a television landscape already choked with exploitative sexual violence against women (from “SVU” and “Criminal Minds” to “Game of Thrones” to the mercifully canceled “Stalker” and “Wicked City”), “Jessica Jones” uses mind control as metaphor — not only for the physical powerlessness victims feel during sexual assault, but the mental and emotional facets of domestic violence, the virtual prison in which women are conditioned by their abusers to feel they deserve to be brutalized. Before Luke Cage tended bar in Hell’s Kitchen, he was Marvel’s premiere blaxploitation hero—a feat he achieved, amazingly, despite not having the word “black” in his name (see also: Black Panther, Black Goliath, Black Talon).

On top of her work “helping” individual clients, Jessica also has a pretty sweet corporate gig with Jeryn Hogarth, a high-power lawyer played by The Matrix’s Carrie-Anne Moss. She’d much rather use those skills to chase adulterers as a private investigator in New York, or to break the knob off her front door when she’s locked out. His original series doesn’t offer much in the way of hints about the man Jessica would later become involved with, but for those looking to discover the backstory of the only man ever to tell Doctor Doom “Where’s my money, honey?” these issues are a retro thrill.

Though the show is thankfully not a procedural, Jessica is a cracking investigator, and her world-weary retorts and penchant for bare-knuckle brawling (none of Matt Murdock’s balletic martial arts for her) is both homage and, by virtue of her gender, novelty. He said, “While I appreciate your appetite for all things Jessica Jones, she will be just as developed for television.” She is a former superhero with a really, really dark, twisted past, and that comes back to haunt her from the beginning.

Comic book fans will be gratified by Jessica’s tangled but relationship with local barkeep Luke Cage (Mike Colter), another streetwise Marvel superhero who happens to be next at bat for Netflix. Jessica leaves behind the world of private investigations for a job at The Daily Bugle, bringing her into constant contact with Spider-Man and Daredevil cast members like J.

And Jessica’s female cadre of colleagues and friends (including Carrie-Anne Moss as her sometimes-boss, the womanizing legal shark Jeryn Hogarth) have their own tantalizing subplots and share her sense of grim purpose and determination. She recently turned down a full-time job as the firm’s in-house investigator, and Hogarth voices some other concerns about Jessica’s growing alcohol use.

But while “Jessica Jones” allows him to feel guilt and culpability for what he did under Kilgrave’s control, the subsequent episodes show him apologizing to and attempting to make amends to his victim. In the early days of the MCU, the films treated the Avengers as truly unique beings, but now we’re getting a broader picture of just how many powered people there are out there. Find NJ.com/Entertainment onFacebook, and check out TV Hangover, the podcast from Vicki and co-host Erin Medley on iTunes, Stitcher or listen here: NJ.com TV critic Vicki Hyman and super fan Erin Medley dissect Charlie Sheen’s bombshell interview and question whether AMC’s “Into the Badlands” is worth our time. It’s something else entirely when, free of his influence, she drinks too much or has sex with someone when the better choice might be to go home alone.

A highlight from a run by writer Mark Waid and artist Chris Samnee that’s a must-read as a whole, but certainly worth picking up as Jessica Jones prep. He and Jones entwine in a torrid relationship, paired with quite a few pipe-smashing sex scenes — but it falters after details emerge of Jones’ troubled past.

While the TV version of the character is fun enough, her comic book incarnation is outstanding: snarky, optimistic, and utterly indefatigable even in the face of (as in the case of this series) magical beasts. And the series is a nice reminder that although comic books are derided as a kids’ medium, their supernatural setups can provide us with clarifying thought experiments that allow us to approach our present dilemmas with fresh perspectives.

Cage is one of a few male characters who hog the screen — another way that the series breathes refreshing diversity into a genre that isn’t exactly known for featuring female leads. In the aftermath of Killgrave, his victims can barely believe themselves, haunted by what happened and sick at the ease with which they were made to betray themselves. Netflix really couldn’t make a Jessica Jones TV show and not include, as Bendis describes it, “weird sex.” And it’s certainly weird in the sense that it’s not the kind of scene that we’d typically see on TV. Throughout the series, Jessica is plagued by PTSD-style flashbacks that transport her to the time she was cast under the mind-controlling ways of Kilgrave, an arcane and twisted villain played by David Tennant.

That might have something to do with the picture that she finds in his medicine cabinet, perhaps a connection to — paraphrasing — the case that just won’t let her go. He then surfaces in silhouette, either to grab at Jessica’s shoulder or to yell something in her ear — all before she recoils and quickly realizes nothing’s there. At the end of the pilot, Kilgrave takes over the mind of a runaway college student, forcing her to kill her parents with a revolver in a crammed elevator.

This captivating, nightmareish darkness is where Jones excels, so much so that, at times, you may catch yourself involuntarily muttering the same string of words Jessica repeats to herself after she’s hit with a Kilgrave-haunted flashback. He’s an adult bogeyman, one who forces viewers to pay attention to the lives he destroys, disturbs, and invades, rather than an all-powerful bad guy who encourages audiences to forget about collateral damage in the thrill of huge explosions that have vast theoretical body counts but hurt no real people, just extras with a line or two. And it appears that this boy has tastes similar to another boy, one who likes to wear purple, dream-lick Jessica’s face, and bears a striking resemblance to the Tenth Doctor. We know that something happened between him and Jessica in the past, against her will, and all of the bad memories come flooding back when Jessica tracks Hope’s credit card to a lingerie store, a menswear store, and the building that formerly housed the Italian restaurant where they dined.

If the cops are unable to do anything to help Hope, it’s up to Jessica. “You’re still the girl who tried to do something,” Trish tells her, referencing her super past. The chipper bellboy at the hotel recognizes her from her previous stays there, but we’re under the impression that she has a very different memory of those visits. Hope, still trapped within Kilgrave’s psychic grasp, shoots her parents in Jessica’s elevator, and the detective is too late to stop her. “Smile,” Hope tells her, channeling Kilgrave and sending Jessica running for the door. No, this story doesn’t look anything like the origin stories we’ve gotten used to in the years since superhero movies took over pop culture, but in the moment that Jessica turns away from her awaiting cab, we see a hero created. The hardest part is starting early mornings on Monday and then by Wednesday working overnight, so I feel like I’m flying to Asia every week, getting off the plane and coming right back to work.

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